When state Rep. Bill Hitchens spoke to the Rotary Club of Effingham County, he acknowledged he had his share of stories, and not just from his first term in the General Assembly.
When he was a young state trooper, he was assigned to then-Gov. Jimmy Carter’s security detail. “I traveled with him, and I could tell a lot of stories,” he said. “I never dreamed he would wind up being president of the United States.”
He also traveled once with Jimmy’s brother Billy. Their uncle Hugh Carter had taken over Jimmy’s old state Senate seat, and Hitchens went with Billy and Hugh to Gov. George Wallace’s inauguration in Alabama.
“Jimmy wouldn’t go. There were a lot of philosophical differences,” Hitchens related. “He sent Billy and Hugh to go. Billy had a big time.”
Even though Hitchens has been in and around, he called the next to last day of this year’s session an eye-opening experience. As the gun carry bill was being debated, the speaker of the House called a halt to the proceedings as the House leadership gathered at the podium for a discussion. One of the other lawmakers seated near Hitchens turned to Rep. “Coach” Williams, an Avondale Estates Democrat.
“They said, ‘Coach, what’s going on up there?’ He said, ‘Son, around this place you never know exactly what’s going on. I tell you one thing — if you’re not at the table, you very well may be on the menu.’”
Hitchens never envisioned running for office, even after retiring from state service. His stop at the Rotary Club was his third of the day as an elected official.
“People call me a politician now, and it still makes the hair of my neck stand up sometimes,” he said, “because I don’t feel that I am. But I’ve come to the realization that I am. That’s what I do now.”